It’s financial aid season, and there have been a number of private questions for me about how I managed my finances at Minerva. Most of my classmates know that since my freshman year in San Francisco, I haven’t been offered any financial aid from Minerva despite numerous appeals (other than a Climb loan package, which I declined due to the high interest rates). Though it has been, at times, overwhelmingly difficult to manage the costs of attending Minerva, I’ve still managed to come to every rotation city, thanks to the tips I’ll share below. I don’t mind being transparent, so here is a short list of things I’ve done.

1. Got a student line of credit for ~$10,000USD a year from a bank back home in Canada.

The interest payments are WAY lower than the Climb loans and I only have to start paying on the principal amount one year after I graduate. This is much more favourable than the Climb loan.

2. Used summer breaks to work a minimum of two jobs at the same time.

I’ve worked up to nine jobs before (yes, this was freaking crazy and I don’t recommend it, but you do what you gotta do). I recommend one full-time job and one part-time or contract-based job. This work schedule allowed me to put in hours in the evenings after regular work days and during weekends, which really helped with my total amount of savings. The summer after my first year, I worked as a waitress at a luxury golf resort (where I knew there’d be huge tips) and made a ton of money this way — I hated my job but it paid for my next year at Minerva. Although my waitressing job was far from my ideal for so many reasons I won’t get into, I spent the rest of my time working full-time for a political campaign, which felt enormously rewarding and kept me sane although it didn’t pay as much. With these two jobs, I felt like I was able to strike a balance between work that would enhance my resume and work that would provide me with financial stability. 

3. Aimed to save a minimum of $4,800USD by the end of the summer.

This breaks down to $600USD per month of the semester. This is my monthly budget so that I don’t run out of money for food and other necessities. Minerva internships pay a very reliable amount that can be used to get through the next school year: $15/hr for 40 hours a week x 15 weeks = $9,000USD. It sucks, but I had to decline many internship opportunities that simply didn’t pay enough or were unpaid (F these people, this is immoral). FYI, I also avoid internships that advertise payment by stipend. These stipends are usually lump-sum payments that don’t break down to a worthwhile hourly rate — sometimes less than $6/hr when you do the math. 

4. Worked part-time remote contracts throughout the semester.

Up to 10-15 hours a week. These are pretty easy to find! Roles like data entry, research, social media, and communications will be possible. I’ve had a part-time job every semester since I started going to Minerva:

San Francisco: I worked 20-30 hrs/week at 24 Hour Fitness. (I have a US passport so this was possible.) I found that it was much cheaper to buy groceries and cook in my room (recommended: Trader Joe’s for good deals & good quality food) than to eat out, despite how difficult it was to manage this with the residence’s shared kitchen setup. I ended up buying a discount rice cooker which enabled me to cook the majority of my meals in my own room — I relied on rice and sweet potatoes, for the most part, to keep me full since veggies were pretty pricey.

Seoul: I had a part-time contract from the summer that I was able to extend; this covered me through October for about 10 hrs/week. I would argue that in Seoul, it’s almost as cheap to buy groceries as it is to eat at restaurants. Relax, and treat yourself to some kimbap — the cheapest versions will sell for ₩1,000 ($0.82USD)!

Hyderabad: I started this semester unemployed, although I spent some serious time job-hunting over the winter break. I used standard opportunity websites like Handshake and LinkedIn but made sure to filter for “remote” or “contract-based” opportunities to weed out positions that would require me to be physically present. By February, I found a small part-time contract that earned me a decent amount of income. I found this semester to be very affordable, due to the low cost of living in Hyderabad.

Berlin: I continued with two of my summer jobs for 20 hrs/week until October when one contract ended. I continued for 10 hrs/week through December with the other contract. This semester is a great opportunity to travel cheaply — I bought $20 flights to Italy and took a road trip to Poland for $75.

Buenos Aires: I continued with my summer job for 10 hrs/week until February. I left the country mid-March due to COVID-19, so now I’m back home and don’t have to worry about my immediate living expenses. I found this semester to also be quite affordable — it was no hardship to treat myself to a bag full of empanadas when each one was only about 30 Argentine pesos ($0.46USD at the time of writing).

5. Lived in independent housing in Seoul & Buenos Aires.

Both semesters, I used AirBnb to find housing and saved a significant amount (about $300USD each semester) that I was then able to carry over into my food/travel budget. Because of this, I had money to take a few inexpensive trips to surrounding countries.

6. Didn’t give up and kept applying for financial aid.

I’ve just been notified that I’ll have work-study for the London & Taipei semesters, which GREATLY relieves my summer stress and which I’m over the moon about! Woohoo

One last thought.

So many of my classmates have told me that they never see me and sometimes forget that I’m even in the rotation city. This has made me unspeakably sad on many occasions. I’ve felt invisible.

I implore you to think about the commitments that people have to fulfil behind-the-scenes that make it impossible for them to be around that much. I’ve had to turn down invites to go to cafés and restaurants for obvious reasons — because I couldn’t pay for my meal or because I needed the time to work on contracts.

And give people a chance! Don’t stop trying to get to know someone even after time has gone by. I feel so happy whenever anyone, even if I don’t know them very well, asks to hang out with me. I’m worn out, grumpy and pessimistic a lot of the time because of everything on my plate, but I still wish people would give me a chance. I’m sure many other people feel the same way — so I hope this article, though brief, can help foster a greater sense of mindfulness and understanding among the members of each Minerva cohort.